The Patriots “Can’t Wait” for Sunday afternoon’s game against the Jets as New York travels to Gillette Stadium on a slide. Losers of two straight, this Jets team has the look and feel of one ready to implode. A look at what to watch for in the game:
1. Establish the Run
The Jets haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since early last season and as a team, haven’t combined for 100 yards on the ground this season. Against a Patriots team that is mediocre against the run — giving up 108.8 yards per game and without linebacker O.J. Mayo — this could be a game to get things going on the ground. Plus, given the potent Patriots’ offense, ball control and time of possession will be key and the Jets must do better than their 38 yards on the ground in Week 4.
“I think we built this team to be able to run the football,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “We ought to be able to run the football more than 38 yards.”
2. Rushing Brady
A big reason why the Patriots have had success this season is that Tom Brady has had time to pick apart opposing teams. New England is fourth best in the league in protecting Brady, allowing just four sacks and 15 quarterback hits this season. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, in comparison, has been sacked 11 times. If the Jets can generate some sort of a pass rush, it will be crucial in forcing Brady into bad throws.
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“It’s based on what the defense is making available to us and then Tom Brady making the proper read,” Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said.
The Jets will need a big game from their front three and linebacker David Harris.
3. Replacing B.T.
In the first quarter last week, the Jets were dealt a blow when veteran linebacker Bryan Thomas went down with an Achilles injury. It looks like Josh Mauga, Jamaal Westerman or Aaron Maybin could replace Thomas in the lineup, but none of the three have the experience or ability of Thomas.
“It’s tough when you lose a guy that is a true Jet, a guy that’s played a lot of snaps for us,” safety Jim Leonhard said.
Mauga is probably the most complete player of the trio as Westerman and Maybin are mainly pass rushers, but he has just six tackles and no starts in his second year in the league. That is not exactly a confidence-inducing resume.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.